Friday, October 29, 2010

Following Up on Ferguson

Some of you saw my posts that Catherine Ferguson Academy was slated to be closed last year. Fortunately, the school remained open!

Now they're looking to collaborate with MSU, which I believe will be an exciting step forward for both the university and the academy. If anywhere could make urban planning, education, and agriculture work together, it's the area around CFA.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Inside Look: Erin

Hi, I'm the main writer/editor of the UAID blog, but I've never formally introduced myself. Of course, you've probably learned a lot about my interests if you've been reading my posts, but I'll share a little more background here.

In my undergraduate program, I studied elementary education, Spanish, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, partly for the global view that gave me of social issues. I grew up in metro Detroit, and during my time as an undergrad, I had the opportunity to participate in summer fellowships in Detroit, which really jump-started my focus on the city.

Seeing and hearing about the issues in Detroit Public Schools and in the city as a whole, along with regular reading of the Detroit Free Press, gave me the background necessary for UAID's first crazy idea: an urban goat farm. My main concern has been and will continue to be Detroit's children, which is why I'm excited about projects such as soil remediation, horticultural therapy, and educational enrichment.

This fall, I'll start a master's program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, a field I find relevant since the fastest growing population in Detroit consists of immigrants.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hello, My Name is: Rebecca

A late introduction is better than none, or so they say. So, I would like to say a quick hi. I'm one of the co-founders of U-AID. My background is biosystems engineering with an emphasis on biomedical engineering and I'm am starting medical school in 11 days. Which sounds like an opposing path for someone interested in urban agriculture and green initiatives. But it's not. Fresh local food options and integrated green spaces in communities have significant health benefits for children and families. So that's why I'm here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Backyard Poultry Debate on Michigan's West Side

On the west side of the mitt, in my home town of Holland, a debate on the role of backyard livestock is heating up. Chickens are one of the greatest pets a child could ever have and have economic, nutritional, and practical advantages as urban livestock. 

Currently only a few cities in Michigan allow people to keep chickens as pets. In these cases, birds are able to provide eggs daily, can fertilize and control pests in gardens and can be enjoyable family pets. The only cities in Michigan that I can find that allow chickens within city limits are Ann Arbor, Benton Harbor, Lansing, East Lansing, and Traverse City. Several of the cities require permits and most have a cap of 4-5 hens and do not allow roosters. Having no roosters mean the birds are quieter than an average dog and the eggs are sterile and 4 birds cannot become 20.

My father just had an article published in the Holland Sentinel about the shift in public and residential policy that is needed in a nature starved and agriculturally isolated environment.

This is one of the hurdles that needs to be overcome in order to encourage positive changes that democratize and decentralize the American food system. If we want to develop urban environments that are therapeutic and foster discovery and personal ownership of food production, these simple steps are vital. I would encourage individuals to enquire as to the local laws surrounding a handful of backyard hens. If they are amenable I encourage people to take advantage of them. If laws do not allow them write a letter to the editor in local newspapers and push for new coop laws.  Public perception and policy toward the keeping of a small number of reasonably contained and maintained urban chickens needs to shift in order to push Michigan towards wider sustainability and healthy living.




Friday, May 21, 2010

Introducing Myself

Hello, I am one of the newest members of the UAID blog team here and I figured I would briefly introduce myself.

I am T. Michael Kates, a graduate student at Michigan State University. I work in the Field Crops Entomology Lab. I am doing research on soybean aphid control. My work involves breeding plants that do not need to be sprayed with insecticides as frequently, lessening environmental impacts and increasing the profit margin for growers. I am also looking at ways of preserving the natural pest control services provided by insects naturally in the environment; examples include lady beetles and predatory flies.


I am not directly involved in the urban agriculture work OF UAID, but I bring my larger perspective of agriculture. My interests center around sustainable food production that include urban and rural food systems as well as educating youth on agriculture. Feel free to check out my personal blog or look at some stuff I have had published in the past.


I hope to pop in here every once in a while and discuss some of the happenings in Michigan agriculture.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


We've been quietly busy lately - I gave two workshops at Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts, a consortium I attended my senior year of high school, one for the European History class and another for the Environmental Science students. Overall, I felt the workshop was well-received and the students were interested in (or at least respectful of) the issues presented. The AP Environmental Science instructor is already very involved with Detroit agriculture - her only recommendation was that the next time I do a presentation, I bring a goat with me!

We're also still pursuing the idea of a therapy garden at the Children's Center. Currently, we're putting together a proposal for the center to look at; perhaps we'll send it to other places that serve vulnerable children as well. Once that's done, we have grant applications to do and Americorps volunteers to apply for.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Update: Therapy Garden

Not so long ago, I posted about "nature deficit disorder" and my concerns for Detroit's children. As a step toward ameliorating this problem, I've talked to a contact at the Children's Center of Wayne County about establishing a therapy garden there to be used for individual and group sessions. He liked the initial idea and will "kick it around" with someone who knows more about their buildings and grounds.

This afternoon, I met with Myung Ju, a monk/architect at the Detroit Zen Center, to discuss the requirements and costs of the type of green roof that would be necessary at the Children's Center if there isn't ground-level space available for a therapy garden. She was very helpful and encouraging, although she cautioned that with the increased weight of a green roof, re-framing is necessary in many buildings. I hope to meet with someone at the Children's Center soon to learn more about their building structure and materials so that we can better estimate costs.

I was also excited to find out that the DTE building in Detroit has the same kind of green roof that we'd like for the Children's Center - high intensity, which allows for people to walk on the roof (of course, this requires more structural work because it's heavier). She also mentioned that Chicago has multiple green roofs worth visiting. If we manage to take a trip out to Milwaukee this summer to visit Growing Power and some other organizations, a stop in Chicago may be in order.

What do you think about the idea of green therapy? Have you ever seen a green roof?